July 8, 2022

18 Lessons the Death of my Dog Taught me about the Beauty of Living in the Moment.

death of my dog

You left way too suddenly.

I was not ready to say goodbye, and you went so quickly that it was difficult to process. But now that I am thinking clearly again, I can see the beauty in the pain of your passing.

Life as we know it is of a temporary nature. Things, possessions, beloved humans, cherished relationships, and sentient beings in the present sometimes vanish quickly and without warning. There is nothing in life that can truly be owned. If there is anything I have learned by living on planet earth for more than four decades, it is that where we are now is impermanent.

Possessions, like houses and cars that you believe you own, will one day be owned by someone else. Relationships that you believe will always be there might one day be gone. Lovers and partners who you are sure are “the one” might leave. Best friends who appear as animal companions can cease to be in the blink of an eye.

We are all in a constant state of temporarily borrowing people, time, energy, things, and relationships. Then, one day, they transform and are sent to where they are meant to be next.

On the last full moon, my tiny five-months-old miniature dachshund puppy began to struggle. I watched with confusion as his weakness grew throughout the day. Later that night, he collapsed on the floor and lost the ability to stand. He was rushed to after-hours emergency care with a plan to be transported to a specialized veterinary hospital the following day.

When we awoke, we discovered that he was partially paralyzed and completely blind. What we hoped was a treatable condition changed to a terminal sentence within hours.

There can be value in short-term relationships and temporary situations—even if they result in painful endings that break our hearts on the way out the door. Sometimes, this makes the heart grow stronger and more beautiful.

For those who are aware, lessons are everywhere. Sometimes, darkness contains gifts, but we must search for them in our hearts. Unfortunately, the mind typically does not understand darkness. If there is anything that a blind puppy can teach me, it is that when our eyes cannot see, our heart and our senses can feel the way forward.

To our beautiful puppy, who was nothing but pure love and kindness (with a healthy appreciation of snacks), here are the gifts that you gave me when you left with a piece of my heart as my gift to you:

1. Stop and smell the flowers. Nothing in this world is so important and pressing that one cannot enjoy the surroundings as one journeys to the future.

2. Defend yourself against bullies. If you are being picked on and harassed, it is sometimes okay to pretend you are a T-Rex, making the most ferocious sounds to indicate you want to be left alone. Underneath your sensitivities, you are actually pretty tough (when you need to be).

3. Put down your phone. Nothing on social media is more important than the moments you enjoy with a loved one—especially when you do not know if you will get those moments back.

4. When something has left you, there is no amount of begging or pleading that will bring it back. Enjoy the love and attention nurturing you because it might be gone one day.

5. Enjoy your food and share it with others. Nourishing your body with nutrients and water is an excellent thing to do.

6. It does not matter how busy you are. Take the time to snuggle and show your love.

7. Ask for help and know your boundaries. If your limitations prevent you from reaching where you want to go and doing what you want, it is okay to ask (bark) for help.

8. Find a way to move past your pain and keep going. Move your body, lie in the grass while enjoying the sunshine, and have fun with your loved ones. Don’t be snappy to those you love, even when hurting.

9. Know when to rest. If you are getting really crabby, take a time out. Enjoy your life and your experiences, but when your body tells you to stop, it is a good thing to listen.

10. Kiss, nudge, boop, and nibble your loved ones to show you care. Affection for those you hold in your heart is a great thing—always show someone that you care if you do. When you are gone, they need to remember that you loved them.

11. People love you. If you ask for help and show that you are in pain, your loved ones will hear your cries and offer support to help you get back on your feet.

12. Some people will get you, and some people will not. And that is okay because the people who are your people will always understand.

13. What humanity has failed to grasp about mindfulness and unconditional love is taught to us daily by animals. Still, it is up to us to notice the lesson or not.

14. When we attach our identity to stories, expectations, and assumptions of permanency, we will suffer greatly when later blindsided by the impermanent nature of life. Never take the joys of the now for granted.

15. Crying is always okay; it is how we let the pain out, so it does not poison the heart.

16. Do not take any opportunities for granted; when they are gone, they are gone, and you are left with only the memories and the lessons. So, when life says yes, say yes back.

17. The universe typically has a plan. Trust in the unfolding of your life and go where the river leads you.

18. If your community needs a pet memorial site to remember beloved friends who have crossed over the rainbow bridge, build it. Others will come (they get it, too).

In society, we have memorial gardens and human cemeteries for the living to honour their dead. These quiet grounds are often places of solace for the grieving.

Why do we not have these sanctuaries for our deceased pets? Animals are shining examples of unconditional love. I know as a therapist that when someone loses their beloved pet, the loss can be overwhelming.

Motivated by the pain of losing a puppy, I built a memorial garden at our local dog-walking park. This is a place for everyone: a place to spread ashes, a place to leave flowers and mementos, a place to leave a painted rock with an animal’s name on it, and a quiet place to be surrounded and held by Mother Earth.

Your pain is your purpose and encourages you to take action. Beautiful things can be born from pain. Channel your hurt into something beautiful made by your heart because there are no guarantees in life, and love is the only thing that withstands the test of time. When we are gone, it is good to know a place exists where we are remembered.

This one is for you, Sonic.

May you scale the mountains and heights you were never able to do when you were in physical form.

~

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